Synopsis

Two clans compete for dominance over the martial arts world in this classic of violent swordplay and political intrigue. A complex tale of deception and double crosses. Killer Clans leaves viewers guessing every step of the way. Masterful fight choreography from Yuen Cheung Yan (Yuen Clan member and brother of Yuen Woo Ping) and Tong Gaai fills the screen with bloody sword fighting and imaginative weaponry, delivering both great drama and fantastic martial arts.

Director

Chor Yuen

Cast

Chung Wah
as Meng Sheng Wen
Elliot Ngok
as Lu Hsiang Chuan
Ku Feng
as Uncle Sun Yu
Ching Li
as Hsiao Tieh, Sun Yu's daughter
Wong Chung
as Sun Chien
Lo Lieh
as Han Tang
Danny Lee Sau-Yin
as Hsiao Tieh, Sun Chien's friend

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by BrianDanaCamp N/A

KILLER CLANS - Spectacular Hong Kong swordplay drama

KILLER CLANS (1976) is a masterful big-budget costume drama from Hong Kong's Shaw Bros. studio that is quite a change from the usual SB martial arts extravaganzas of the 1970s. It's closer in tone to Japanese samurai films of the 1960s and boasts a formal aesthetic beauty that was not often found in HK swordplay films. The sets are quite spectacular as are the costume design and art direction. While most of the action is shot on studio sets, there are some picturesque locations for a handful of outdoor fight scenes.

Based on a novel by famed martial arts chronicler Ku Lung, the plot has to do with clan warfare between the Lung Men Society and the power-hungry Roc Society in Old China. Various characters are not exactly what they seem as clan loyalties shift and major characters betray lifelong comrades. There are many surprising plot twists that would be best left undescribed here. Swordfights erupt every so often, although they are shorter affairs than usual for a Shaw Bros. swordplay film and place less of an emphasis on martial arts technique. The film's dramatic stress is on the interplay between the various characters and the alliances they form rather than on the action per se. The fight scenes, staged by Yuen Cheung-Yan, remain, however, consistently exciting.

The large cast includes some major players from 1970s Shaw Bros. films, most notably Ku Feng, normally a villain, but seen here as the durable and crafty head of Lung Men, whose survival efforts are quite impressive. His character is clearly the dominant one and his performance outshines those of the two younger male leads, Chung Wa, who plays a freelance swordsman whose loyalties become a major issue as the film proceeds, and Yueh Hua, who plays Ku Feng's second-in-command. Other familiar performers are on hand and are seen to good effect, including Wang Chung, Lo Lieh, Yeung Chi Hing, Norman Chu, future star Danny Lee (CITY ON FIRE), and actresses Li Ching and Chan Ping (as a lusty femme fatale who disrobes for some surprising nude scenes). The portly Fan Mei Sheng, usually seen in comic supporting roles, plays a family man who is at the center of a moving, intense scene late in the film that is truly one of the film's dramatic highlights.

The novel that formed the basis for this film was later adapted for the wire-fu swordplay hit, COMET BUTTERFLY AND SWORD (1993), which starred Michelle Yeoh, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Donnie Yen and Joey Wang. Of the four main characters of the later film, only Tony Leung's character is given significant screen time in KILLER CLANS, where he is played, rather stiffly, by Chung Wa. Michelle Yeoh's character in the earlier film is the aforementioned clothes-dropping femme fatale played by Chan Ping. The comparatively modest swordplay of KILLER CLANS gives way to high-flying "wire-fu" in the later film.

KILLER CLANS was directed by veteran filmmaker Chor Yuen (SACRED KNIVES OF VENGEANCE, IRON CHAIN FIGHTER), who displays an assured and restrained touch that's quite a departure from the more frenetic direction found in the Shaw Bros. martial arts films directed by Chang Cheh (FIVE MASTERS OF DEATH, BLOODY AVENGERS). For one thing, there's not a zoom lens in sight! The director also avoids the more theatrical, Chinese Opera-style staging found in the films of his contemporary, King Hu (A TOUCH OF ZEN). While Chang Cheh's films tended to be less demanding and more entertaining, KILLER CLANS is ultimately a richer, deeper film and more satisfying on a dramatic and artistic level.

As one of the first batch of ten Shaw Bros. releases newly restored and issued on DVD, KILLER CLANS is now available in a beautiful, breathtaking widescreen transfer, in Mandarin (not Cantonese) with English subtitles, that should be seen by any and all Hong Kong film fans. (Other releases in the first ten include King Hu's COME DRINK WITH ME and Chang Cheh's THE HEROIC ONES, both equally recommended.)

Reviewed by ChungMo 7 /10

Takes awhile but becomes a good kung fu intrigue film

Another one of the dozen main character kung fu films that Yuen Chor directed. It starts out confusing as it's hard to follow the crowd of characters parading across the screen but fortunately a number of them are killed off before long and we are down to half a dozen. We also get to spend some time with a few of them so we can start to associate and care about them. A few more characters get introduced before long but it works better as they are in individual scenes.

The photography and sets are, as usual for a Yuen Chor film, excellent. The new film transfer is rich and sharp. The action is good although sometimes the actors are off time (reacting to punches that haven't happened yet). The acting is standard Shaw Bros. The subtitles are generally good but some dialog is obscure to non-Chinese audiences.

The film is slightly "adult" with some brief useless nudity and sex scenes. The fights are moderately bloody but nothing like some Chan Cheh films.

Reasonably good. If you can get through the first half-hour, you'll have a good time.

Reviewed by joelnova93 10 /10

Something for the Eyes. Something for the Mind.

Stimulating those two senses, it seems to have put off some viewers.

The nudity; unsophisticated. The plot; too many loops and lunges, as it's all a deep criminal conspiracy of changing hands with traitors. But the suspense and surprise of betrayal makes the unsavory nudity just another tool to shock the viewer for this film.

Then, there are claims that there is not enough action in this film, especially coming from the Shaw Bros. studio. It is actually the action here that is the most sophisticated, as those who are intrigued by the pacing and plotting in the dialogue will find it that much sweeter when the swords are drawn.

And surprisingly, the minimal yet scintillating choreography elevates the final duel to one of the most memorable and impactful scenes I can ever recall, even making some other Shaw Bros. fight scenes seem like the Star Wars Prequels.

If you want a film that will keep you on your toes and ruffle some feathers, look no further than KILLER CLANS.

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